Travel Photography Gear Guide

Travel Photography Gear Guide

Julie Travel Gear 45 Comments

Do you want to know how we capture the images that you see on our website? Here is our photography gear guide, with links and explanations of our photography gear and accessories. At the end of this post, we offer tips and tricks on how to take better photographs while traveling.

Photography Gear Guide

The Canon 5D, Our Main Camera

The Canon 5D is my primary camera. Almost every photo on this website was taken with this camera. However, there are two versions of it.

Roughly half of the photos on this website were taken with the Canon 5D Mark III. This was my main camera from 2012 though June 2017.

In 2017, we upgraded to the Canon 5D Mark IV, the newest version of this camera. This camera comes with some new, slick features and a better processor.

Both are still available for purchase. Here are the details for both of them.

Canon 5D Mark III

The Canon 5D Mark III is a 22 MP full frame camera for the serious amateur or semi-professional photographer. It is excellent in low light situations, shoots 1080p video, and can take up to 6 photos per second. Most importantly, this camera produces large, crisp, vibrant photos.

The Canon 5D Mark III is very durable. I owned this camera since 2012 and it has been through a lot. I’ve dropped it, it’s been rained on numerous times, it survived the dry, dusty conditions in India and Africa, and it was even slimed by elephants in Africa. This camera saw daily use while we traveled around the world, in addition to the hundreds of hours it was used during other travels, sporting events, and daily life.

The only downside of this camera is its size. It is not a compact camera and it is relatively heavy. Yes, there are lighter, smaller, more travel friendly DSLR cameras available, but I love the Canon 5D. It is a little cumbersome, but for me it is worth it in order to get these photos.

Upgrading to the Canon 5D Mark IV

Tim surprised me with the Canon 5D Mark IV on our wedding anniversary. I began shooting photos with this camera in June 2017.

Is the upgrade to the Canon 5D Mark IV worth it? For me, yes. There are some very slick features that I love.

All photos can be geotagged using the built-in GPS, so I have the exact GPS coordinates for all of my photos. This seems to be an almost universal feature on cameras nowadays, so it’s not that earth shattering, but it is something the Mark III is lacking. You can get a separate GPS tagger for the camera but it makes the large camera even bulkier and heavier.

My favorite feature is the built in Wi-Fi. Now, I can transfer photos directly from the camera to my phone and then share them almost instantly on Instagram and Facebook. This is huge for me. With the Mark III, I had to wait until we were back in the hotel, transfer the photos to my computer, and then share them from there. Again, this may not be important for some people, but it makes sharing our photos and experiences on social media so much easier and convenient.

There are numerous other upgrades I love…a better, larger touch-screen LCD screen, an upgraded photo processor, and faster, more accurate focusing. The Canon 5D Mark IV is 30 MP full frame camera with the ability to shoot 4K video. The photos I get with the Mark IV are crisper and clearer than the Mark III, although it is only a mild improvement.

Currently (September 2018), there is only a $300 difference between these two cameras. In my opinion, it’s worth spending a little extra to get the Mark IV.

Here are some of my favorite photos taken with the Canon 5D Mark IV.

Venice, Italy

Venice Italy

Bastei Bridge, Germany

Bastei Bridge

Canon 24 – 70 mm f/2.8 II USM Zoom Lens

This lens is my “walking around” lens. 99% of the photos on this website were taken with this lens. I use this lens with both the Canon 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV.

At 24 mm, it is just wide enough for landscape shots. The 70 mm gives just enough zoom to hone in on the action. This is one of the best Canon lenses you can buy and it is worth the price.

Telephoto Zoom Lens

I used the Canon 70-300mm EF f/4-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens when on safari in Africa. I have also used it photographing our kids’ sports events. This is a great telephoto lens for the price you pay.

Memory Cards

The Canon 5D Mark III and Mark IV have two slots for memory cards, a Compact Flash slot and a SD card slot. My primary card is the Lexar 1066x 128 GB Compact Flash card. I shoot in camera RAW and these files get recorded onto this compact flash card.

The Canon 5D camera allows me to simultaneously shoot a second file onto an SD card. I designate this second file as a JPEG file, which gets recorded onto a SanDisk Extreme Plus 32 GB SD card. This is my backup, just in case my main memory card fails (which I’ve never had happen).

Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap

In my opinion, a good quality camera strap is a necessity. I use the Black Rapid RS-7 strap, a durable, comfortable strap that screws into the base of the camera and is worn across the body. It’s not the most fashionable accessory, but it does keep the camera safe from thieves or from accidentally dropping it.

Update:  The Black Rapid RS-7 Strap has been discontinued. The Black Rapid Classic Retro RS-4 is almost identical to what I use. The latest and greatest strap by Black Rapid is the Breathe Curve Strap, which adds another supporting strap to help keep your camera safely by your side.

Canon Intervalometer

An intervalometer is a device that plugs into the camera and controls how often and how many shots are taken. It can also work as a camera timer and it can extend your exposure time. Most people purchase an intervalometer for time-lapse photography.

Note: I rarely use this since upgrading to the Canon 5D Mark IV. The Mark IV comes with a built-in intervalometer. However, I do use this as a shutter release when shooting with long shutter speeds.

We purchased the intervalometer for time-lapse photography, but ended up primarily using it for family photos. To take our family photos, I put the camera on a tripod, attach the intervalometer, and program it to take one photo every second. As the camera takes the photos, we smile, act goofy, and take our time. There’s no setting the camera timer to get just one shot. We can pose for five minutes if we want to, while the camera clicks away. This has been invaluable in capturing the goofy family photos we love so much.

Earth Trekkers Goofy Photo

Note: When purchasing an intervalometer, make sure that it works with your camera. Not every intervalometer is compatible with every type of camera.

MeFOTO Tripod

A tripod is another invaluable camera accessory. If you want to take photos with a long exposure time, a tripod is a must. There are a lot of expensive tripod options out there. What you are paying for is a lightweight tripod that is durable and will be stable when you attach your camera to it.

We use the MeFOTO tripod, a budget-friendly tripod that we love. This tripod goes everywhere with us. It’s been around the world and Tim has carried it on numerous hikes and trips through cities. Even though this tripod has a low price compared with those on the higher end, the MeFOTO tripod has proven to be durable, lightweight, and dependable. On uneven slopes and surfaces we have not had a problem with it.

If you are looking for a cost conscious tripod that does a good job, check this one out.

JOBY Gorillapod Tripod

We recently added this great little tripod to our collection of camera gear. It’s small and it’s lightweight so it doesn’t take up much room or add a lot of weight to your backpack. The moldable legs can be curled around fence posts, railings, and trees. I’ve done this a bunch of times and it works great. This is a great tripod to throw into your hiking backpack rather than hiking with a larger, heavier tripod.

The Gorillapod comes in several sizes. We use the 5K stand because it is the only one large enough to hold our Canon 5D. If you purchase it as a kit, you also get the Ballhead, which allows you to swivel the camera on the tripod. I recommend purchasing the ballhead because it makes it much easier to level the camera when taking photos.

PacSafe CitySafe Anti-Theft Handbag

The PacSafe CitySafe Anti-Theft bag is a handbag, not a true camera bag. But I use it as my camera bag.

This bag is just large enough to hold my camera and the accessories listed above (other than the tripod, which Tim carries in his daypack) and few other small items. This bag is worn across your shoulder. It looks like a purse, so it is more stylish than a bulky camera bag. Plus, the PacSafe features, such as an RFID slot for your wallet, Slashguard fabric, and clips to lock your bag, all work to thwart pickpocketers and thieves.

Canon Powershot GX7 Mark II

This point-and-shoot camera, the Canon Powershot GX7 Mark II, is lightweight, tiny, and shoots great video. We upgraded to this point and shoot camera in June 2018 to use for our videos.

This camera shoots 1080p full HD video and it is an excellent compact camera if you are not looking to lug around a DSLR. 90% of the time we use it to shoot video but I have used it on occasion for photography when I did not feel like carrying a big camera around town.

This 20 MP camera can shoot time lapse video, take long exposure shots, and offers awesome image quality for a camera that is so small. You can almost keep this camera in your pocket.

If you are looking for a nice, small, inexpensive camera that also shoots quality video, check this one out!

Tyler used this camera and our drone to capture our most recent videos of 2018. Check them out our Earth Trekkers YouTube channel.

DJI Phantom 4 Drone

All of our drone photos and video were taken with the DJI Phantom 4 Drone. We purchased this back in 2016 for our trip to Scotland and Ireland and have been using it whenever possible.

Having a drone is a fun hobby, especially if you are into electronics, or have a teenager in the family who is looking for something new to do (like us!).

With a drone, you can capture some very unique photos and videos of the places you visit. It’s worth it, but it is another bag to carry onto airplanes and lug around with the rest of your luggage. Plus, there are a lot of rules about where you can and cannot fly a drone, so before you travel, you need to be prepared to do some research. There have been a number of times that we were unable to use our drone because of local laws.

Storing Your Photos

So, what do you do with all of those gorgeous photos you just took? Back them up!!

Hard Drive

I keep a copy of our photos on my laptop and a back up copy on an external hard drive. We love the WD My Passport External Hard Drives. They are small, very durable, and are travel friendly. You can purchase them with 2 TB of disk space, more than enough room for years of photos.

How to Take Better Photos

I am a self-taught photographer. Everything I know about photography I learned from reading in a book and then by practicing it over and over again. If you want to be a good photographer, you have to take photos everyday.

Julie Rivenbark

Learn all of the controls on your camera and practice using them as much as possible. If you want to take truly great photos, you have to take your camera out of its automatic mode, and start shooting in aperture, shutter, or manual mode.

Here are some books that taught me how to take a better photo.

The Best of the Digital Photography Book Series

Scott Kelby teaches photography in a practical, slightly comedic sort of way. I am a big fan of his digital photography series. This book takes the best of his advice from the entire series and condenses it down into one manual.

Understanding Exposure

Whether you are a beginner or advanced photographer, this is a great resource. In this book you will learn all about exposure, one of the most important ingredients in taking your photography to the next level.


Learn more about travel photography: Capturing the Action: How to take Great Photos While Traveling


If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us!

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Note: This post contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these affiliate links, we get paid a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Comments 45

  1. Do you have a sample picture that you can post (1) straight from camera VS (2) With Lightroom edits.

    Just trying to figure out what is contributing more towards great quality pictures you have posted.

    I’m in the middle of deciding camera for purchase. I’m leaning towards Canon EOS R (Mirrorless version of 5D Mark IV).

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      No, sorry, I don’t have a sample unedited photo, but I’m glad you like my photos. When I edit in Lightroom, I increase saturation and contrast, enough to give the photos some punch, but not enough to alter the photo too much. I wish I knew more about the mirrorless version. The Canon 5D Mark IV takes extraordinary photos, but it’s a big, heavy camera. If there is a big difference between size and weight for the mirrorless (with the mirrorless being lighter) that would be a bonus. The size of the Canon 5D is a negative, especially while hiking, but it is durable. It has taken tons of abuse and has been very reliable. Check out some forums online and try them out in a store. Good luck in your research! Cheers, Julie

      1. Thanks Julie for your inputs! Your pictures are indeed great and it has influenced me to go for Canon camera and lens that you have used.

  2. Hi! What do you use for rain protection for you camera while you are out hiking? Heading to Iceland next month and can’t wait to take pictures!

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      I have a dry bag that I put the camera into to carry it around when it is really raining (have used it in Iceland several times so far this trip). An umbrella works well as long as it is not too windy. And sometimes, I just let the camera get wet for a little bit. The camera I have, the Canon 5D Mark 4, is very durable and tolerates getting a little bit wet without any issues (so far). And I carry a towel to dry it off and special cloths to keep the lens dry. But no fancy camera gear, although I think you can but special sleeves for cameras, but I haven’t tried those yet. Have fun in Iceland…it’s so much fun to photograph! Cheers, Julie

  3. Hi there! We will be visiting Norway in a few weeks and are hoping to bring our drone – as a visitor, did you need to do anything special to use it in Norway? We have Canadian recreational drone licenses, and we’ve looked at the Norwegian drone regulations – but do the exam/specific insurance requirements also apply to visitors? Thank you!

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      When we were in Norway last year and flew our drone, we did not do anything special. We just heeded the rules, stayed away from airports, large groups of people, etc. However, rules are always changing so I do not know if anything has changed since our visit. I do not know anything about the exam and insurance requirements, so either that is new or applies only to Norwegians. Cheers, Julie

  4. Thanks for this very helpful post! Would you recommend this camera and Canon 24 – 70 mm f/2.8 II USM Zoom Lens for night photography (capturing the stars)? Appreciate your help.

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      Hello Nicole. I wish I could give you an easy answer to this but I have not done night photography yet. It’s a great camera and a great lens but I recommend getting on a photography forum or searching nighttime photography gear just to make sure you make the correct purchase. I know the camera is worth it but double check the lens choice. Just 2 weeks ago I added the Canon 16-35 mm f/4 to my camera bag and love it!! That would be one to consider, also. Cheers, Julie

  5. Hi! I think what you guys do as a family is wonderful! We hope to do that in the future with our 2 girls! My husband and I are planning a trip to Scotland on May 1st and I’m on the fence on buying a drone. I have never used one and I’m concerned that there is a lot of limitations of where you can fly. Are there a lot of restrictions in Scotland? We plan to go Edinburg, Glascow, Glen Coe, Skye and Inverness. Any advice will greatly appreciate. Thanks!

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      Yes, we have a drone, and honestly, we hardly use it because of the limitations. However, the times we have used it (mainly in Scotland, Ireland, and Norway) the footage has been spectacular. You won’t be able to fly it in Edinburgh or Glasgow, since they are cities. If the rules haven’t changed since our visit in 2016, you can use it in Glen Coe, Skye and Inverness. I would do a Google search on updated drone rules for Scotland, just to be sure. And you are not allowed to fly drones around castles, so you won’t be able to get aerial views of Eilean Donan and other castles (bummer!!). So, I guess you have to decide if it is worth the expense to occasionally get to use your drone when you travel. Currently, we are in Greece and didn’t bring it, since we could only fly it 50 meters from us and flight paths have to be pre-approved. The rules are different in every country and usually they are quite prohibitive. Cheers, Julie

  6. I’m going to Ireland and considering buying a drone to take with me. Where would I look to find info on the rules for using the drone in Ireland?

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  7. I have a one-step-above beginner camera, and I have almost exhausted its features. Instead of taking the plunge to buy a much nicer camera, I would love to purchase someone’s used, but still newer camera (like your Canon 5D Mark III). I asked a few friends but none of us have a level camera like you have. Do you know of any sites/communities that sell or trade cameras? I looked to rent a camera like yours but for the length of our trip it would be close to 1/3 the price of just purchasing the camera. Thank you! (Your blog is inspiring, by the way!)

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      Hello Catherine. Sorry, I’m not going to be much help here. My idea would be to contact Canon. They refurbish cameras so they might be able to tell you where to purchase one (or maybe you can purchase a refurbished camera from them). Cheers, Julie

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  8. Wow! Your blog is like a book you can’t put down. We printed your 10 day America Southwest itinerary and are now planning our trip – we fly in to Phoenix and leave Las Vegas – we can’t wait.

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